Gather Financial Information and Copy Documents
I cannot stress this piece of advice enough. Often times, a potential client will come to consult with us and they do not know important information such as how much money they make, how much money their spouse makes, what their home is worth, or what they owe to creditors. You should gather this information and obtain copies of your (and if possible your spouse’s) income tax returns prior to beginning the divorce process. This makes it easier for your attorney to advise you and may actually result in your legal fees being lower. The more organized and knowledgeable you are with respect to your own financial situation the better chance you have of achieving your goals throughout the divorce process. You should gather income information for you and your spouse and a list of all marital and non-marital assets and marital and non-marital debts as soon as possible, keeping it all in a safe place.
Consult with an Experienced Divorce Attorney
This piece of advice may seem obvious or even self-serving considering the source but I can assure you that the more you know about your rights and the procedure involved with divorce, the better equipped you will be to make wise decisions during a very difficult period of your life. Many attorneys offer free initial consultations to prospective clients. Others charge a consultation fee but will apply that fee to your retainer fee if you choose to retain their firm. Even if you do not think that your spouse has consulted with an attorney, you should do so. If divorce is a real possibility, you need to know what to expect from the legal system and have the information necessary to make strategic decisions early on in the process. If you are thinking about filing for divorce, please contact the Philadelphia divorce attorneys at Sadek & Cooper.
Set Aside Money for Legal Fees and Other Separation-Related Expenses
Divorce can be very expensive. If you are the lower earning spouse, you may be entitled to spousal support or temporary alimony (alimony pendente lite). However, you would be best served in your pursuit of these remedies by hiring a family law attorney to represent you. Due to the intensive and complex nature of divorce matters, attorneys will typically require that you pay their firm a retainer fee prior to becoming involved in your case. If you anticipate the need to hire an attorney, you should set aside money for legal fees and other separation-related expenses. Such separation-related expenses may include renting a new residence, moving to live with a friend or relative, or obtaining your own vehicle. If your spouse leaves the marital residence, you may find yourself (even if it is only temporary) needing to cover the mortgage and utilities on your own while things are sorted out legally.
Obtain a Post Office Box or Other Secure Mailing Address
If you still reside with your spouse but are separated or you are considering separating from your spouse, it can be useful to obtain a post office box or other secure mailing address so that you can be sure that you will receive private and sensitive mail from your attorney, financial institutions, employer, and other important senders. This is a small expense but can be invaluable as you proceed with your divorce case with a secure way to receive important documents.
Open your Own Bank Accounts
You should open your own checking and savings account if you do not already have them. If your pay check or your savings are vulnerable to your separated spouse, you may be unhappy to find that they have moved those funds into a separate account, used your funds to pay their divorce attorney, or used them to pay the rent for their new condo. You may move funds from a joint account to your new account but remember that you will be accountable for all marital funds eventually.